The bottom has been reached.
I had said earlier, in several editions of my weekly "Crystal Ball" column that M. Night Shyamlan had started his feature film career on top, and has gotten worse every single time (and yes, I'm conveniently forgetting 1998's "Wide Awake", a turkey that only grossed $250K at the box office).
On my rating scale, "The Sixth Sense" was worthy of a 3 ½
"Unbreakable" was a 3
"Signs" came in at 2 ½. It probably would have gotten more had it not been for the hokey aliens.
"The Village" started the quick decent, only earning a piddling 1, while earning the title of "Movie with the Most Obvious Ending Twist".
And then there was 2006's "Lady in the Water", a mess of a movie that only got a ½ football from me due to the performance of Paul Giamatti.
I had really hoped that "The Happening" might turn things around. Sure, the early buzz was not good, and I went in without much hope for anything decent...but I was at least thinking that it had to be better than his last one, and that this slight improvement might mean that he was moving in the right direction, and that eventually he could make a really good film again.
I was also encouraged by the casting of Mark Wahlberg. After all, the former Marky Mark didn't really make bad movies, did he?
Uh...yes he does. See also; "The Truth About Charlie", "Planet of the Apes", and "Rock Star".
And now "The Happening", which just might be the worst movie I've seen since "The Beverly Hillbillies".
It was so bad (how bad was it?), that I can't even do my usual routine when I "Spergeon" a movie, and make all kinds of jokes and comical commentary about it. Unlike the other two recipients of this prestigious ranking, "Smokin' Aces" and "10,000 B.C.", there was nothing even mildly amusing about this downer of a film...not even something so over the top outlandish to merit a good old fashion mocking.
No, this movie was nothing but an unmitigated BORE.
The acting stunk, the directing stunk, the music stunk, the cinematography stunk, the concept stunk and the writing stunk like day old skunk road kill.
Wahlberg was flat out terrible in his role as a dorky Philadelphia science teacher who gets the news that "an event" was happening in New York that caused people to get disoriented, and then kill themselves in whatever method that first pops into their zombie brains. So he takes off on a train to Harrisburg with his wife (Zooey Deschanel), his math teaching best friend (John Leguizamo), and his friend's eight year old daughter.
Half way to Harrisburg, the train stops, as they find out that "the event" has spread to other cities and towns throughout the Northeast. The rest of the movie is about their attempt to keep clear of whatever toxin is out there.
There is no real mystery to this attack. Even with the first report coming over the airways calling it a terrorist attack, you already know that's not the case. This isn't a spoiler...it's something revealed almost immediately by M. Night in his ham-handed attempt to outdo Al Gore in scaring people about Global Warming.
The mystery part of it doesn't work, nor does the "thriller" part. The movie is not scary, nor is it even suspenseful. The big build up in the trailers about "M. Night Shyamalan's first R-RATED MOVIE!!!"?
It's rated R because M. Night chose to put in a bunch of Wes Craven reject shots of people killing themselves in really gross ways. Hey, look! There's a guy on YouTube walking into a lions' cage and letting them rip his arms off while he's just standing there bleeding!
As if. I found that scene much more amusing the first time I saw someone getting their arms ripped off for giggles and grins...the Black Knight in "Monty Python and the Holy Grail".
But that's all this movie has; derivative and lame rip offs of other material. Foremost of which is "War of the Worlds". Although I thought Spielberg's 2005 retelling of the H.G. Wells classic to be one of his lesser works, the man still knows how to convey panic, showing the effects of something devastating on the faces of an everyman. Shyamalan tries the same thing here, and fails miserably. The people fleeing this menace may just as well have been taking an afternoon hike to work off a few calories after a big meal. Another bit stolen from "War of the Worlds" was the inclusion of a deranged lunatic in a remote farmhouse where the fleeing family was hiding. Unfortunately, Betty Buckley's whacked out old lady was nowhere near as interesting as Tim Robbins from Spielberg's work.
As mentioned, Wahlberg gives the worst performance of his career in this film. I will blame M. Night first and foremost, as the writing is so bad that there are very few actors capable of doing anything worthwhile with it. The character of Elliot is supposed to represent an Everyman...but he comes across as whiny, indecisive, and completely uninteresting.
Zooey Deschanel is one of my favorite young actresses, one who always seems to take risks, and plays very unique characters (especially her role as Trillian in "The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy"). But once again, as Marky Mark's wife, she's limited by a script that is as empty as Paris Hilton's head. Making things worse is M. Night's attempt to "humanize" the couple by showing them as having marital problems. In this case, M. Night's ability to write dialog about relationships is so lacking that he makes the groan inducing romantic scenes between Hayden Christensen and Natalie Portman in "Attack of the Clones" look like "Casablanca" in comparison.
For John Leguizamo...I've seen Steven Wright put forth more emotional range in his stand-up comedy routines than what he showed here. I would have thought it necessary for the man to take a full bottle of Xanax pills to get as near comatose as he was in this film.
All of this led to an absolutely dreadful movie experience, where the only amusement I got was listening to the derisive laughter of some of the audience members during particularly awful pieces of dialog.
This is a movie that had absolutely NOTHING going for it.
I think our illustrious proprietor of this site, Rich Swerbinsky, summed it up best on our TCF Movie Board...
"M Night just needs to stop making movies. This is outta hand."
You said it, Rich. Which is why this movie gets a rating of...
Spergeon Wynn - Zero Footballs. Uber-suckitude personified.
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